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International Journal of Art Therapy

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Image: Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams in art psychotherapy groups
Francesca La Nave

Online publication date: 26 May 2010

To cite this Article La Nave, Francesca(2010) 'Image: Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams in art

psychotherapy groups', International Journal of Art Therapy, 15: 1, 13 — 24 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/17454831003752378 URL:

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I propose that a more robust application of the principles of collective ownership and free association could strengthen the ties between art and psychoanalysis. Cotswold Rd. I start by considering how Art-psychotherapy could benefit from a study of the Social Dreaming system where similar currencies to those of Art-Psychotherapy. Cumbrian House. also relevant to Art-Psychotherapy’s therapeutic aims. explanatory practices. The author suggests that in Art Psychotherapy this dimension could be enhanced by viewing image ownership as collective rather than individual and by routinely using free association in preference to more common. It is also central to visualize the unexpected.. homeostasis Introduction This paper concerns the treatment of visual and narrative material in Art-Psychotherapy analytical groups in adult psychiatric services and asserts the centrality of collective and interactive modalities to group work. The conclusion is that creative thinking promotes homeostasis. Art-Psychotherapy’s technical and clinical coherence could be enhanced by viewing image ownership as collective rather than individual and by using free association routinely. David Maclagan’s on Imagination and Lois Oppenheim’s on Neuro-psychoanalysis. 15(1): 13Á24 ORIGINAL ARTICLE Image: Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams in art psychotherapy groups FRANCESCA LA NAVE Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 Abstract Social Dreaming sees dreams as differentiated particles of the undifferentiated unconscious. meta-visual. such as the dissolution of fixed assumptions and crystallised mental 1745-4832 (print)/1745-4840 (online) # 2010 British Association of Art Therapists DOI: 10. favouring reflective thinking over symptom-led preoccupations. The use of dreams in clinical and non clinical groups led me to believe that there is scope for improving the basis from which patients are routinely invited to view the images made during sessions. bridging conscious and unconscious thinking. is instrumental to patients’ capacity to articulate beyond language. SWLSTG NHS Trust. Relevant here are Gordon Lawrence’s works on Social Dreaming. Keywords: Social Dreaming. June 2010. Sutton. Through sharing dreams and their free associations in a particularly structured meeting called the Matrix. Analytic Art-Psychotherapy groups promote therapeutic change through image making and interpersonal contacts. The ideas in this work derive from the author’s personal experiences in Social-Dreaming and as an Art Psychotherapist. Email: franlanave@hotmail. here understood as infinite and containers for unconscious wisdom. In particular.1080/17454831003752378 . free association. are treated differently. a state of internal equilibrium. bearing in mind that innovations in the clinical use of images interact with the work structure and may flounder if unsupported by a suitable container. imagination and language. Surrey. Social-Dreaming promotes access to unattended knowledge and transformation of thinking. Art’s transitory subversion of the familiar relies on image ambiguity which. Neurological phenomena associated with both dreaming and creativity suggest that art and dreams can act as conduits to unattended knowledge. Oppenheim’s (2005) suggestion that dreaming and creative activities share comparable neuro-psychological phenomena supports Correspondence: Francesca La Nave. Matrix. such as dreams. a helpful activity for patients wanting to destabilize unhelpful constructs and entice new ones. necessary to well being and a function of internal coherence. explanatory practices and describes some structural modifications to the context of Art Psychotherapy group work with clinical evidence. meta-verbal. in preference to more common. These variations open the way to a new phenomenology with possibilities for the transformation of thinking. in Art-psychotherapy. I refer to a change in the perception of the ownership of images from individual to collective. This study is based on the evidence provided by participation in SocialDreaming programmes and direct clinical work. Sutton Hospital.International Journal of Art Therapy.

Conceptually grounded in the domain of unconscious phenomena with its basic form the Matrix. The focus is on the dream. called by Lawrence (2005) the Infinite.and art-centred paradigms. Art-Psychotherapy groups take different forms according to the use made of its psychoanalytic. for a public sector group. Both Social-Dreaming and Art-Psychotherapy involve participants in states of temporary. I am indebted to Gordon Lawrence’s discovery and development of Social-Dreaming. The former summons the primary experience of dreams while the latter produces images through physical engagement with materials. not on interpersonal dynamics. The clinical work described is from an NHS analytic Art-Psychotherapy group. Whether used as a research tool. The group’s capacity to alternate action with reflection (Yalom. 1998) speaks of SocialDreaming as a social aggregate method to reveal and process the unattended of the unconscious connections between individuals and society.14 F. a paradoxical innovation this. Despite their differences the two configurations perform activities bridging different symbolic orders. is the capacity to lead us to a dimension. Ogden elaborates Bion’s (1961) concept of ‘the psycho-analytic function of the personality’. or as part of larger organizational consultancy programmes. The latter’s group analytical mode aims at enhancing wellbeing through activities which promote transformational processes while requiring a kind of attention associated with both interactive and meditative positions. Common prerogative to dreams and art and. 1989. mining the undifferentiated unconscious (Eherenzweig. psycho-physical isolation. to narrate and free associate to dreams. Art and dreams usher in the domain of visionary phenomena. like the one of social dreamers recalling dream images and that of patients engaged in making images. A theatre for dreams Social-Dreaming was developed in the early 1980s in the Department of Human Relations at the Tavistock under the direction of W. images and other creative mental activities. with its chance for new wisdom. sensually perceived. the attention is on collective elaboration. I obtained my patients’ permission to reproduce their images. may be partly due to the narrative style and partly to the dynamic effect of the method. 1991). which by transcending the restrictions of logic and sensibility disengages us from the ordinary laws of space and time governing the physical world. but not cognitively available (Bion. It is a method to access and manage new knowledge in various contexts through sharing dreams and their free associations in a social setting. bypassing the censorship of rationality. Mann (2006) and Skaife (2008) and to Lois Oppenheim’s (2005) Neuro-psychoanalytic perspective on the connection between neurobiology. attended by outpatient adults with mental health problems and personality disorders. gesturing both towards and away from the conventional psychoanalytic position. seen as a constitutional faculty capable of examining experience through the simultaneous lenses of conscious and unconscious thinking. emotional or behavioural operations. 1997) to make the unknown perceivable and therefore knowable. Lawrence (2003. not the dreamer. The atypically sophisticated emotional handling of the visual material. A Matrix sitting position facilitates dream recollection by reducing the distracting personalization of eye to eye contact. through free association and amplification to dream narratives. Lawrence and has since attracted a growing number of contributors. modulating the approach to dreams. Accounts include personal experiences in the Social-Dreaming Matrix and anonymous. or snowflakes. clinical material. According to this. dreams manifest the digestion and transformation of the lived experience particularly in respect of psychic elements. The Social-Dreaming Matrix1 (SDM) is an assembly between 10 and 70. Like Social-Dreaming also. comparable to reverie and involving: Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 . They are both intensely sensual. but composite ones and are implicated in the development of new mental attitudes. its consistent purpose is the transformation of thinking. the aim is to stimulate the transformation of thinking and the emergence of new thoughts. who sit in configurations shaped like stars. 1995) and the application to affective changes and emotional development of the catalyst of art do not describe definitively cognitive. psychoanalysis and creativity. Social-Dreaming is a non-clinical application suitable to a wide range of social and relational areas. One of the guiding principles of Social-Dreaming is a view of dreaming as a form of elaborative thinking.G. La Nave concepts and methodologies relevant to both Social-Dreaming and Art Psychotherapy. the writings of Maclagan (2005). by extension to Social-Dreaming and Art-Psychotherapy. to proffer the unthought of. This faculty operates through dreams as a diffused form of mental activity for the transformation of emotional material.

p. This is the sense in which Social-Dreaming and Art-Psychotherapy share common aims. 2005. whose different affective states are communicated through the body. While the actual dream is elusive and cannot be known directly (Lawrence. Free association. For Bion. the Matrix gives expression to the consciousÁunconscious relationship just described and carries out collectively. This thinking combines the ‘‘as if ’’ of transitional phenomena with the ‘‘what if ’’ of fables. . dream thoughts are extracted from the isolation of the individual mind and are extended to the entire assembly. Hass-Cohen and Carr. 2002). feelings and fantasies that are precluded from. p. neglects the fundamental verbalÁvisual continuum integrating the paradigms of Art. dreaming occurs both during sleep and waking life . (Ogden. states that regression. These conditions are associated to a spectrum of creative experiences. 2008) connections with increased dorsolateralÁprefrontal cortex activity. as a function of creativity. rather than individually. residing as much within the recipients as within the creators (Maclagan. have observable (Oppenheim. otherwise deselected by ordinary logic. linking distinct dream narratives through free association and amplification generates. . Dream-thought is an unconscious thought generated in response to lived emotional experience and constitutes the impetus for the work of dreaming.Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams a form of psychological work in which there takes place a generative conversation between preconscious aspects of the mind and disturbing thoughts. creativity is not the province of artists but rather a function of human existence. This phenomenon bridges the gap between putatively separate individual experiences. Although opening dreams in Matrices are considered to have a special authority in setting the course for all subsequent dreams (Lawrence. but start in their proto-form within society. always incompletely remembered and reported (Puget. yet pressing towards conscious awareness . Physiology. referring to Kris (1952) and Brenner (2004). 2007). Group Analysis. The paradox between this and the cognitive structure of their narrative translates into a tension between inclusiveness and alienation in the experience of both dreamers and audience (2002. therefore. Art-Psychotherapy groups deal with variably tangible phenomena . Accordingly. 12). the thinking that dreams had already started. for each person. can draw lines of coherence by building recognisable themes through the narratives of dreams and of images. Dreams are pictographic issues of a spaceÁtime continuum. One could say that the job gets shared out. cumulative experiences of meeting other people’s dreams as if they were one’s own. including problem solving and aesthetic experience. in the case of groups. Despite these differences. This communication also constitutes a bridge through which we can move the discussion on the connection between Social Dreaming and Art Psychotherapy. 1355) 15 Embryonic ideas are not definitively individual. 99). both dreams and creative activities emerge in a state of relative regression (Oppenheim. Thus. p. memory and personal motivation. found to affect mood. to be developed through the creative activities of individual intermediaries (Lawrence. Oppenheim (2005). 13Á14). 2005). these remain no more predictable than any image made in a group. is also at the service of sanity. By interposing a collective apparatus at the point where dream material is exposed. the less rigid the person’s defensive system. Art psychotherapy as a meta construct Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 Describing Art Psychotherapy as ‘non-verbal’ succinctly answers the profession’s need to promote its versatility in offering psychodynamic treatment to client groups normally excluded from classic forms of analytic psychotherapy. 2005. A notable difference between dreams and art is that dreams are involuntary. Psychoanalysis and. . is the common base for the psychodynamic exchanges of creativity. The more elastic and fluid the connection between ego and id. alien to discourse. Through reflective elaboration the products of these connections can be made available to consciousness and to ego scrutiny. The psychodynamics of creativity. alterations in the presence of certain neurotransmitters and associated biochemical changes. This definition. 2004. 2007. Differently from pictorial images dreams cannot be known directly because the filters of memory and language distance us from the primary experience. primary phenomena. imaginatively embracing ideas. assigning to creativity a role in the achievement of internal coherence. . p. however. while art-images are visible products of processes involving intention and determination. however. affect. 2005) with comparable neurological changes and freer connections made between disparate mental material during dreaming and during acts of creative imagination. ranging from the active processes of creativity to the appreciation of its products (Oppenheimer referring to Holland [2003]).

In language this transition is problematic because it aspires to bridge two separate orders. unconscious. they also remain a group thanks to the shared physical boundaries of the room and by being held in mind.16 F. technically. The clinical session is the temporary structure through which these multimedia utterances become organized. emerge in later life as symptoms and disorganizing forces. less linear take on the images involves distancing them from their individual makers. which lend additional defensive rigidity to the general tendency to view images through the lens of what we know. patients’ complaints of ‘feeling blank’. even within an inherently creative system. while inclusive. They work non-linearly. 2008). inhibiting rather than embodying poetic possibilities and manifesting creative blocks. In the NHS this task is particularly challenged by patients’ levels of ego fragility and distress. 1991). assisting the development of a capacity for attributing meaning to inchoate. by taking them through broader. what they know about their troubles and start looking for what they do not. entailing degrees of competition and dissonance. Conversely. that is between the shadow presence of what cannot be known and the utterances striving to make it knowable. The therapeutic situation replicates the mother’s alpha-function of developing a capacity for reverie. like diagrams. have a non-linear. Yet recovery demands that patients go beyond responses which just reiterate the known and I find that. in the entire meta-visual experience of the group to allow something previously unattended to be seen. or unknown. Reverie. is essentially a transitional activity. While giving no assurance of creativity. the emotionally ruminative process transforming chaotic material into something tolerable and meaningful. 1997). imprinted in the child’s ego as un-metabolised elements. temporarily. but rather meta-verbal and meta-visual. is a natural mediator between pre-verbal and verbal states and avoids the inarticulate being colonized and reduced by language. just as dreams are. connecting co-existing personal and interpersonal narratives through the making and viewing images. However. this condition may be fruitful in generating the unexpected. resistant to change through ordinary resources being unavailable. Art-Psychotherapy groups address the tension between the diverging drives to closeness and self sufficiency (Storr. This faculty grows dynamically through processing all emergent associations. or by the tactile experience of the shape of things (Isserow. between signified and signifiers (Lacan. Processing these elements to digestible forms. to all images. Art Psychotherapy is methodologically creative because it relies on being receptive to the revelation offered by the image. The transmutation between language and image is seen as crucial in the symbolic representation of trauma (Seth-Smith. or visual. benefits from the systematic adoption of free association. Decreasing the emphasis on individuals’ explanation of their own work and promoting a collective. In other words. that is. The purpose of the composite meta-verbal and meta-visual discourse of Art-Psychotherapy groups is to help patients to review their mental and psychosocial positions. Conversely. they benefit from becoming receptive to images as conveyers of new information as well as conduits for personal narratives. when preverbal traces of negatively cathected events. patients may benefit from forgetting. Through concurrent presentations of images and voices ArtPsychotherapy groups generate conversations which. Establishing such a culture in respect to images may flounder without a Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 . antithetic to systematic defences. whether governed by sight. is one of therapy’s objectives. while adding force to its poetic forms. this calls for a contemplative approach and an open mind-set. Considering images as a collective body of others in group situations is problematic because it challenges patients’ reluctance to be spontaneous with their comments for fear of causing conflict and. or evacuated material. of ‘not having a clue as to what to make’. Therapy’s endeavour is to improve unsatisfactory conditions. with their familiar constructs blocking the way to more elusive connections. by emerging developmentally earlier. in the presence of others. Schaverien (1992) talks of some images being descriptive. This finds obstacles in patients’ tendency to refer to their own images as a point of departure. may be openings to spontaneity in absence of premeditated material. given sufficient time and space. dialogic order and leave material traces of variable permanence. 1997) by being functionally structured to mediate between privacy and interaction. non-verbal. visual imagery. As patients disperse to engage in image making. What we obtain is a system of parallel narratives interplaying with the shared reflection of the group in ways which are not definitively verbal. collective experiences. According to Winship and Repper (2007) the most productive conversational styles are not linear but complex ‘cacophonic’ ones. La Nave such as art and collective relationships and hold transactions between the unconscious and the knowable by cyclically distancing and bringing together their members’ activities.

as well as discontinuity between sessions. but a routine absence of visible imagery at the opening stage may play into expectations that whole sessions could continue in purely verbal mode. over the obligation of creating new images each time. This method seeks to create the conditions for patients’ attention to roam in ways less encumbered by performance anxiety. to a side by side position. resulting in the odd session with over 15 images simultaneously in view. can be addressed by routinely having all images made the previous week present at the very beginning of each session. sensitising patients to the relevance of past images to the current discourse. moving away from a face to face. where they can be confidently and concretely brought back. Voices Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 Assuming that the most authoritative voice about an image is that of its author is problematic because of its investment in definitive exegeses. or defined through their images’ individual appraisal. Finding themselves at a distance from their images they are liberated from seeking factual explanations about others’ images and from the obligation of explaining their own. this changes the emphasis of the interaction by accentuating the significance of the images as central manifestations of group reality. Once grouped together the images begin to describe a distinct drama. A word about the ethics of including absentees’ images and the management of confidentiality: it is the timeless agency of the image which remains available for consideration. marks a change of pace in the session’s environment. Managing the viewing of larger bodies of work from a topographic and a conceptual point developed into the idea that images could be assembled separately from the group of their authors. In fact this method fosters a particularly interactive culture. Growing able to make out what had not been intentionally included in the images sponsors . A culture of collective entitlement to the entire body of work reduces the likelihood of absence being used to undermine progress. Particularly fruitful. While not contradicting the analytic principles specific to this type of treatment. like being judged. verbal phases are allowed to extend into the session. I have therefore developed a distinct method which demands a degree of direction from the therapist. This mid-session transformation. In the amphitheatre patients report a sense of freedom growing from free associating to all images and all session’s events. drawing a political frame around the separation between images and their makers and introducing images’ identity as res publica. The act of organizing the images in a zone separate from the semicircle of patients focuses the group’s attention to the images’ details and interplay because it draws temporarily away from the image makers. such as common or contrasting themes. Discontinuity in the substance of the Art Psychotherapy method. The visual and emotional experience of viewing art in galleries. This move is integrative in a number of ways: it reinforces the consistency of the method through integration of verbal and visual modes. without the artist’s presence. Psychodynamically this can be viewed as a defensive manoeuvre. This departure from the analytic circle towards the amphitheatre of Greek drama places people in a position similar to that of the public in a theatre. from a therapeutic point. This effectively trains patients in tolerating the temporary disorientation and the lack of control connected with viewing images in terms not absolutely linked to their authors’ intentions and more socially situated. rather than in concomitant readings. it also promotes deeper exploration of existing work. while ritualising ordinary activities. contradicting efforts to deliver an image-based treatment and calling for an intervention to address the issue of continuity.Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams 17 structure to support it. attributing finality to patients’ accounts of their own work. changing the initial circle into a semicircle. the patients. The amphitheatre Art-Psychotherapy groups’ not uncommon experience that insufficient explorative time is dedicated to the images can be exacerbated when initial. not the image maker. now become viewers of something distinct from and yet referring to them as integral to the play. While the latter are engaged in image making I rearrange the chairs. Engaged in collective free associations patients often show surprise at previously unnoticed and unattended aspects of the works. delaying progress and disconnecting visual links. interlinking the images and their significance to the current reality of the group. such as Social Dreaming has for dreams. separate and simultaneously interactive with its public. leaving no part of the session without image presence. resonates with the dynamics of distance and interaction described. is patients’ inquisitiveness towards the ideas emerging from the comprehensive effect of all images positioned together.

a fact which had eluded explicit understanding until then. The following clinical examples show how the discourse of the images as a linked group is being made more evident by these technical changes.4 Congruent with the dynamics between neglect and the seduction of the marzipan house. the group had to take stock of their ambivalence towards me. Clinical examples Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 The synergic use of art. but as the shadow of internal objects brought to the theatre of the group. Samuel also painted The Cave and the Storm (Figure 3). where anxieties and resources were both to be found. For weeks the group referred to this image. a very short-sighted woman. the fable became the metaphor for the group’s own narrative of anxiety about the transitions between therapy and external life and their fear of being abandoned. The group was discussing this in terms of themes of personal courage and the already acknowledged problems of exporting into ordinary life the internal accomplishments of the group. as Bion (1993) suggests. again from a dream: I am in a cave where water is rushing. the unimagined becomes imaginable and new relationships become knowable. eventually finding discharge in a polarised confrontation between Gina and Joseph. dreams and collective free association assists thinking by maintaining contact with the ambivalence of the images. The Witch’s House (association). Having to move from intransigent dependency to reliance on new resources for survival. while making the connection between images into the basis for all interactive and interpretative processes. and what they collectively made of it. As a harbour they could Figure 1. Effectively this is a phenomenon of image autonomy potentially opening the way to one of personal autonomy and described by Skaife (2008) as patients’ opportunity to view themselves imaginatively and from different perspectives. This image straddled commentary and prophecy as interpersonal tensions had been building for some time. This kind of attention has. Stadium (Figure 1) derived from Samuel’s dream: While doing my DJ work at the hospital2 a man tells me to do it in an auditorium for a large audience. not as prerogative of a demonised external world from which the group provided idealised shelter. I feel afraid and on the horizon I see twin tornadoes approaching. or desire. but at setting opportunities for collective imagination to be exercised as springboard for a culture of open enquiry. but anxiety stops me each time. I am very anxious and try to refuse. a man who was considering leaving and whose presence she ambivalently experienced as threatening and desired. no memory. but he says that all I need to do is exactly the same as I always do. like The Witch’s House in the woods (Figure 2)3 in the story of Hansel and Gretel. My narrative abandons individual pathologies to concentrate on relationships through the images’ lens. I wake up.18 F. This reorganization therefore is not directed at disconnecting patients from authorship and personal expression. surprised everyone by saying that what she could see was a house with a thatched roof and dark windows. Insight into this process revealed danger. This image. La Nave a kind of thinking defining knowledge differently from one attributed exclusively to consciousness. As unseen elements become progressively seen. but opens to the experience of surprise and revelation. . Figure 2. only on a larger scale. I try 3 times to do the programme in front of the auditorium’s microphones. and made me into something of a witch. when Gina. told the tale of the group’s primary fear of abandonment and rage against dependency. The Stadium (paint on paper).

desire. A large phallus on the right was eventually ‘seen’ and sexual tensions could be finally acknowledged. I pull out an old fashion iron. Temporarily I was the loved/hated parent. . shelter in from whirlwinds. so as to remain able to think despite the climate of raised voices. It also looks like one of the group members. mountaintop involves swapping ascent for descent. sewing and internal housekeeping were followed by new ideas about hiding. The bulldog and the sewing machine reminded me of the quarrelling pair. At a window at the top a zombie appears. Mother Makes Tea. giving way to a period of reparation during which relationships were deeply reviewed. then a second one. at one time associated to the task of therapy itself: the difficulty of the route.Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams 19 Figure 3. Mario. sitting on four sturdy legs and looking like the Churchill Insurance advertisement one. Purple Mountain (paint on paper). of the kind people used to heat on a fire range. habitually casting herself as the victim. Joseph had kept calm while Gina. and I am walking in a red desert. however. reasoning that ironing things out and sewing them back together might require a bit of daring. Someone brought up an older image of Joseph’s. the effort of climbing and the anxiety of not knowing what waited on the other side. separation. had expressed anger directly. loudly and had stormed out of the room twice. The Purple Mountain (Figure 5). but it is also an old Singer sewing machine. brought two recurring dreams: I am walking between the two walls of a tower climbing over filing cabinets. new member. All the interplay between dreams and images’ potential value was harnessed by sustaining rather than resolving the ambivalence they generated. I made a suggestion that the group may try and play around with the images as if they were a Figure 5. instead of becoming aggressive. de-fragmentation. ignoring his plight. Figure 4. while protecting the rest. his transference from childhood sexual abuse experience. ironing. leading eventually to questions of whether the gendered polarization had been the group’s way of dumping conflicts onto the pair subgroup. During that time I had a dream I experienced as part of my thinking about the events described: Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 I sit with the group wondering how to improve things. Following the gift association. in a different group formation a young. I resolved to tell the dream to the group. When I put it down it settles on its base and it is stable. expressed in a recurring dream/images where he had to sit with his abuser/ step-father while mother stood by making tea (Figure 4). Thoughts of guarding. while Gina recognised how her victim role had been abandoned in favour of an angry protest against being abandoned. someone pointed out that here. The Cave (paint on paper). Several months later. but the regulatory function of the image remained active. jute bag from which I extract surprise presents for the group. which now aptly described how the pair had swapped roles. Joseph began to consider his recovery as connected with the exercise of his own authority. anger and tears. Eventually the storm subsided. truth and boundaries. there is a large brown. Reaching a The group responded by producing a shoal of images and dreams during the following weeks. Joseph said he had felt unprotected by me from her fury. I pull out a bulldog puppy.

While this text remains equally open to speculation. this is the way of the depressive position. After climbing a Staircase of Filing Cabinets. In therapy the transformation of troublesome internal objects occurs through mastering the troublesome processes of therapy itself and in groups it means managing a kind of compromise between the conflating attractions of dyadic dependence. the group suggested a different text with the sequence inverted (11Á6): Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 Figure 7. like dreams. Tower. style and ethics wanting to colonize this chronicle of a journey through adversities. Figure 6. . Imagination whose potential for revelation and innovative thinking hinges on their open interactions. However. like dreams. marking the sentient acceptance of our existential solitude. 2008) and that images. asserting a new. 2008). From a Cocoon a Being emerges. The Forest. like an insect’s chrysalis. their composite metaphors register wider signals than taken individually. pairing up of image and I now want to focus on how visual images. to cross a Wood to an Open Space.20 F. breaking through Barred Exits. By considering images in sequences open to deconstruction (Skaife. where opportunities for 1radical but slow change occur through indirect means. autonomy and cooperation. it bears the mark of separation from the authority of the therapist. La Nave story-board. However. Art-Psychotherapy groups do this through their members’ collective and personal relation to their images. Various Exits prove blocked but a place is found where the Traveller is composed in a Cocoon. Following Figures 6 to Figure 11 the story goes: The Traveller walks through the Red Desert and finds himself in a Winter Wood. a way out is gained and the Traveller leaves the Bleeding Tower behind. A Tower of Bleeding Stones appears and entry is somehow gained through a Staircase made of Filing Cabinets. 1998) the best structure for their exploration must be one that maximises an open exegesis. In analytic terms. are containers for meaning as well as of meaning (Armstrong. Privately I felt my views. The Traveller. the process involved was progressive. are conduits for composite narratives. Although the content of the second meta-narrative may appear more simplistic. I thought of Dante showing in The Divine Comedy how from a state of confusion salvation is achieved through relinquishing the allure of an obvious path in exchange for the terrifying journey through the underworld. evolutionary authority shifting the power from therapist to patient and inherently unburdening the latter of dependency. 1996). Figure 8. unless interaction is directly indicated (Waller. Given the physiological similarities between dreaming and creative activities (Hass-Cohen & Carr.

foreclosing imaginative possibilities and stressing content over process. bureaucratically anxious organizations. we compound the problem by simultaneously recommending and denigrating Art Psychotherapy with phrases such as ‘It uses art making to help expression of feelings and communication’ and ‘it is not necessary to be good at Art’. thus reinforcing expectations that an image’s mystery should be resolved by its maker’s explanation. Therapists . have no definitive meaning (Waller. that before we can depend upon it. but in ourselves as artist therapists. rather than art. p. Figure 11. Climbing Filing Cabinets. 1991. being a compromise formation. 14): Every mental act. Skaife & Huet. p. Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 When trying to make our services comprehensible to financially squeezed. like dreams. or even with our responses to the resulting art-works. p. 23) writes: I shall argue that art therapy is not just a therapy with imagination. In fact it enters into every aspect of our psychological life: it colours our perceptions. particularly through images. Art Psychotherapy traditionally recognises that images. it contributes to shaping and solving problems. imagination itself has to be restored and renewed. dreaming and creative incubation. at the service of engaging with narratives. the therapist models the possibility of grasping something beyond the factual data of referrals. Perhaps if in Art psychotherapy we spoke of images. Despite this we often collude with patients’ preoccupations with descriptions. And Oppenheim (2005. we could free ourselves from the need to make allowances for their quality while retaining the connection with their visionary nature. as opposed to talking from the image. The exercise of imagination inherently mobilises emotional. Maclagan (2005. Maclagan. Exit. not only in the patients we work with. 23) sees imagination in both patient and therapist as essential for therapeutic progress: Imagination is not something which has to be associated with the making of art. This dread can be reduced provided we promote a reliable platform. but a therapy of the imagination: in other words. not to mention its more familiar outcrops in fantasy. it recreates our memories. as symptomatic of a defence against the dread of being overwhelmed by the instability of meaning. Maclagan (2005. intuitive and perceptive faculties in therapists and patients.Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams 21 Figure 9. personal authorship highlights an assumption of individual ownership. Through these activities. 1998. It is something much more pervasive and fundamental. which are non-linearly combined and essentially creative. Cocoon. setting the conditions to get away from preoccupations with ultimate meaning. not usually challenged by either group or therapist. We are not told to tell our dreams with the caveat they needn’t be good ones. 2005). Creativity is therefore neither uncommon nor in any way exceptional dynamically speaking. Figure 10. is inherently creative.5 I see the act of talking about the image.

Imagination is what keeps us within the symbolic as if position against collapse into symbolic equation (Segal. or inhibited (p.22 F. from representations whose role is one of repetition of what is known and lacking the capacity to promote change. in Oppenheim. Because of this. especially when serving this goal by generating art. Both systems share neurological activities and comparable phenomenological manifestations and propose collective handling of the products of unconscious thinking. relies on the successful deployment of new neurological configurations in response to new situations. 2006) and in relation to transference this reveals the measure in which imagination is developed. dreams and free association enhances the therapeutic use of image ambivalence and in . 17Á23). This fit produces a sense of external and internal coherence which we achieve by producing renewed versions of internal self-representations. a system of innovative metaphors. physical and mental. Homeostasis. Free association is central to fantasy and imaginative processes in psychoanalysis (Mann. Tracing imagination back to the metaphor implies that creativity may be the product of imaginative activities. p. p. The drive towards homeostasis is essentially a creative effort because it seeks to assign meaning through our assessments of internal and external events (Oppenheim. 1999 in Oppenheim. but the dynamic inner representational world. it can assist patients to move from a position of sterile bondage to symptoms. Imagination enables us to remain reflective when projective identification challenges our sense of reality. capable of generating new meaning. 2005. but rather the effect of a postponement of creativity at the service of defensive strategies. Schaverien (1992) and Mann (2006) concur that some images are not the product of creativity. Conclusion Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 Social-Dreaming is relevant for Art-Psychotherapy groups because it predicates the use of free association with a focus on dreams as social constructs. Creative expression reorders these representations. Imagination is a free associative faculty deploying the capacity to create chains of images. Modell (2002. Agility in rearranging neurological patterns leads to more plastic mental representations and more adaptive conditions. precisely because subliminal awareness is requisite to the mediation between inner needs and external environs. Art and psychoanalysis share a role in the homeostatic function by sharing interests in the emergence of meaning. The neurobiological process maintaining homeostasis also requires fluidity of meaning. meaning must be continually recreated. keeping the links open and moving from one point to the next indefinitely. evaluation and integration of new sensory data into knowledge already stored (Oppenheim. extending the capacity of an ‘autobiographical-self’ (Damasio. Oppenheim (2005. Anything from distinguishing hostile from friendly environments. and the neurophysiological systems upon which they rely. La Nave and patients need to establish and maintain positions of creative mutuality. 2005. rather than their origin. p. externalising internal representations of reality. calls for absorption. 22) to build coherent innerÁouter self-representations and to thrive. I refer here to not only the mental imaging that is representation. to intellectual problem solving. 2005) distinguishes truly creative metaphors. to one of emotional intelligence. Neurobiology understands the creation and transmission of new ideas as the mind’s capacity to set aside old categories to test the possibilities offered by new ones through the brain’s temporarily abandoning of known neurological configurations in favour of new ones. the self and objects’ representations comprised of memories of experiences and the feeling states associated with them. 35). This cycle of information juxtaposes layers of expected and unexpected experiences with objective and subjective ideas about the way we fit into reality. Emotional and creative registers combine in interactive cycles. our internal balance. The synergic use of art. 17) talks of homeostasis and creativity being linked with the enhancement of brain functions and self-definition: The key to this homeostatic activity lies in the representational processes of the mind. p. 2005.17). 1988). This impacts on our psychosocial wellbeing because to each unprecedented neural configuration corresponds an innovative mental version of reality. it offers alternative perspectives on experience and does so through the meaning the creative communication of affect-laden representations suggests. This position would support the suggestion that creativity may be found in the inventive handling of the visual products of experience before it is found in the images themselves. The management of knowledge is a series of continuous intellectual and emotional operations dedicated to the creation of meaning between the familiar and the unfamiliar. To comprehend and maintain stability in new situations.

Looking together: Joint attention in art therapy. W.Reflections on the treatment of images and dreams 23 Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 my group practice I have introduced techniques harnessing the imaginative states implicit to the processes of image making and viewing. remaining simultaneously unchanged and open to change. 44Á52. art operates meta-physically and concretely through the senses. Delusion and artistic creativity & other psychoanalytic essays. Isserow. Skaife. (1997). In ways comparable to those of dreams. (1998). (2004). 85. The hidden order of art. Notes 1 2 3 4 5 A different apparatus from the Group Analytic matrix of Foulkes (1986). References Armstrong. . In C. 13(2). (1989). T. M. M. (1996). D. through chains of signifiers. Winship.G. yet knowable reality where work is not defined by productivity but by the exercise of imagination searching for meaning. Hove. A curious intimacy. Focus group research: The role of cacophony in dialogical democracy. 73(2). This transformative process creates a synthesis of roles by making us into agents and recipients for new knowledge.. (2005). This is understood to promote homeostasis. (2008). Dreams in group psychotherapy. 34Á42. (1995). (1997). London: Penguin Books. Lawrence. Psychoanalytic Quarterly. (2005). I have aimed at developing patients’ mental plasticity through supporting collective authority and through encouraging groups to operate in the dialectic space between images and image-makers. H. which is a network of exchanges focussed on transference and personal interactions. Art: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. F. Contributions to three dialogues in social dreaming @ work.G. L.). London: Routledge. Experiences in groups. being and dreaming. London: Harper Collins. Seth-Smith. 11(1). D. Theory and technique (pp. (1988). E. Singular dream. D. The technique of having previous images already available at the start of each session in the interest of enhancing continuity is also proving helpful in supporting the delivery of a coherent meta-visual treatment. Yalom. London: Jessica Kingsley. London: Karnac. psychotherapy and psychosis. or intellectual. J.). Digital approximation of her description. Inscape. (2005). London: Karnac. Brenner. (2003).H. Frank & Whitaker (2007). N. International Journal of Art Therapy: Inscape. Art.H. (1952). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Group analytic psychotherapy: Methods and principles. On holding and containing. Bion. spiritual. Damasio (1999). achieved through generating new neurological configurations. Lacan. (2008). Learning from experience. (1991). (Ed. McNeilly (2006). The image. W. A tale of two siblings abandoned in the woods by their destitute parents. Bion. London: Karnac. London: Jessica Kingsley. W. S. Lawrence. Theatre of dreams: Social dreaming as ritual/yoga/literature machine. London: Karnac. I. Psychoanalytic explorations in art. London: Jessica Kingsley. Segal. Experiences in Social Dreaming. not definitively physical. J. 125Á139. Creativity and psychodynamics. S. Elements of psychoanalysis.) (1998). during acts of innovative thinking. New York: Basic Books. The willing suspension of disbelief: A neuropsychoanalytic view. Hass-Cohen. London: Karnac. N. Voluntary activity. (2004). only to become entrapped by a witch who plans to eat them. Art therapy: Re-imaging a psychoanalytic perspective: A reply to David Maclagan. C. (1986). (2007). Frank. Four views of the image. 10(1). Solitude. UK: Routledge. London: Karnac. (1997). (2003). 33Á40. Attention and interpretation. 23Á30. London: Routledge. at a local hospital. Re-imagining art therapy. mentalization and group art psychotherapy. New York: Shocken. (1961). In the literature i. London: Karnac. London: Routledge. & Huet. (Ed.). Inscape. 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This contributes to patients’ capacity to thrive by promoting flexible self-representations. London: Karnac. 1349Á1364. also personal communications. These processes involve complex operations.G. Mann. London: Karnac. Neri. Waller. Off-shore: A deconstruction of David Maclagan’s and David Mann’s ‘Inscape’ papers. G. A. Introduction to Social Dreaming. Fitzpatrick. J. London: Routledge. 13(1). (1998). A. 3Á16. Skaife. but functioning simultaneously across different symbolic orders. Holland. J. Eherenzweig. Modell (2002). McNeilly..G. Ogden. Killick & J. Cambridge. Bion. Foulkes. Lawrence. Friedman (Eds. Hungry and desperate they find a hut made of marzipan which they start eating. G. New York: Harcourt. Storr.W. 98Á109). The revealing image: Analytical art psychotherapy in theory and practice. Berkeley: University of California Press. Art and neuro-psychoanalysis. W. (1993). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. R. In K. 40(1). Lawrence (Ed. 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La Nave around the use of dreams and images in Art psychotherapy and the practice of Social Dreaming. She is a visiting lecturer on a number of Art psychotherapy courses and has a private supervisory practice. Biographical details Francesca La Nave is an Art psychotherapist and Group Analytic psychotherapist working in the NHS as well as in Special Education.24 F. Her MA in Group and Intercultural Therapy focussed her interest Downloaded At: 10:46 14 February 2011 .

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